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Thu, 08.28.1952

Rita Dove, Writer, and Poet born

Rita Dove

Rita Dove was born on this date in 1952. She is a Black writer and poet.

Rita Frances Dove was born to Ray and Elvira Dove in Akron, Ohio. A National Merit Scholar, she graduated from Miami University in Ohio summa cum laude in 1973.  She then attended the Universitaet Tuebingen in West Germany on a Fulbright Scholarship from 1974-1975. 1977 she graduated from the University of Iowa Writers' Workshop with an MFA.

In Iowa, Dove met her husband, German novelist Fred Viebahn; they married in 1979 and have one daughter, Aviva Chantal Tamu Dove-Viebahn.

After publishing “Ten Poems” in 1977, Dove was awarded grants from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Ohio Arts Council. Four years later, she accepted a position as an assistant professor in the English Department at Arizona State University (ASU). She left ASU in 1989 as a professor of English for a similar position at the University of Virginia.

In 1993, she was named Commonwealth Professor of English, a position she continues to hold.  That same year the Library of Congress named Rita Dove Poet Laureate of the United States, the youngest person and only black until then to be named to that post, an appointment she held for two years.

During her tenure, she brought Crow Indian schoolchildren from Montana to read their poems at the Library of Congress, helped launch a series of public-service ads about poetry in conjunction with the Lifetime cable network, and organized other programs to make poetry more "user-friendly."

Included among her numerous awards is a Pulitzer Prize for Poetry in 1987 for “Thomas and Beulah”; a National Book Award; a Guggenheim Fellowship; a Rockefeller Foundation Residency; a Mellon Fellowship; a Heinz Award in Arts and Humanities; and Amy Lowell Fellowship; and a Shelley Memorial Award.

She has received honorary doctorates from 18 universities, including Boston College, Dartmouth College, the University of Pennsylvania, Northeastern University, the University of North Carolina, Columbia University, and Washington and Lee.  Rita Dove remains one of the most influential representatives of poetry’s past, present, and future and the value of Spoken Word through poetry in America.

Her book, Collected Poems 1974-2004, was released in May 2016; it was a finalist for the National Book Award and winner of the NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Literary Work.  She serves as editor of The New York Times Magazine’s weekly poetry feature.

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